Loneliness is perceived as such a huge social problem that the government has announced plans to try and tackle it.
Over one third of employees report not having strong relationships at work. There are many reasons for this and loneliness is triggered by different things for different people.
What we do know is that these feelings of isolation are potentially very harmful to health; loneliness can lead to lower immunity, high blood pressure, raised cortisol level and increased rates of depression and anxiety. It can lead an individual to not only believe they aren’t worthy of attention, but also lead to strong feelings of dissatisfaction with the organisation. This in turn can reduce employee commitment and increase their chances of leaving.
You can take a number of steps to help your employees’ combat loneliness.
- Welcome all your new recruits. Partner them with a buddy to help them settle in and build relationships. Challenge and encourage your team. Encourage mentoring relationships. Make it clear that you are happy to have open communication and your preferred style of managing it. When employees feel that their employer goes out of their way to understand them, it reinforces a strong sense of belonging.
- Be appropriately inclusive. Hiding confidential information is understandable, but things like forgetting to cc someone on a department wide email or not inviting a member of your team to a partner meeting only serves to create secluded and unhappy employees.
- Make sure your people feel like they know what’s going on. That may mean that you have to take extra care when sending out memos. You may also need to make more of a conscious effort to provide enough information to make your employees comfortable.
- Nurture good working relationships between your employees. Most people are more inclined to socialise in relaxed settings where they have the opportunity to hang out in groups. Schedule a company outing or allow employee volunteering in teams.
- Talk to your employees about hosting some events to promote a healthy work life balance. The more chances people have to get together the more likely they are to form bonds in the workplace that are meaningful and lasting.
- The feeling you get from face to face interaction can often have a strong positive effect. For example, having a smiling face invite you to a small company get-together is more personal than receiving an email invite to the event. Encourage social interaction between your employees inside. If they’re work stations are physically fairly close by encourage them to walk over and deliver a message rather than just send a quick email. For many employees who may feel lonely or socially isolated, stepping away from the limitations of digital communication may be just what they need.
- A big part of making people feel welcome and included is understanding the kind of person you’re dealing with and treating them accordingly. Some people need more than just words to feel comfortable taking that plunge. Actions speak much louder than words. Take the time to learn about your employees. Find out the things that interest them, observe their habits and tendencies. For instance, if you notice that a colleague drinks a lot of coffee, maybe buy them a cup next time you get a chance. You’ll find that the gesture makes them feel more included than if you had asked beforehand.
As a good deal of our adult lives will be spent at work, it helps to have at least one person to talk to daily. Taking the time to make these connections goes a long way in increasing the culture and productivity of the office. Make ending workplace loneliness a priority.
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2018 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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